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Posted at 4:36 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Google CEO Eric Schmidt to step down, depriving Web of future quotes

By Rob Pegoraro

This hasn't been a good week for Silicon Valley CEOs. Only three days after Apple chief executive Steve Jobs announced he was taking an undefined medical leave, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt announced that he would hand that job over to co-founder Larry Page.

Schmidt broke the news in a tweet ("Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!", poking fun at his 2001 hiring as a sort of industry elder) and blog post. The latter explained that he, Page and other co-founder Sergei Brin no longer needed to guide the company as a trio:

So Larry, Sergey and I have been talking for a long time about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making--and over the holidays we decided now was the right moment to make some changes to the way we are structured.

Page will take over Schmidt's job on April 4. Schmidt will become the company's executive chairman, working on Google's relationships with other companies. Brin (a University of Maryland alumnus) will "devote his time and energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products," the post explained.

It's impossible to tell how Schmidt's unexpected departure--which also led off Google's press release about its better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings--will affect Google's services and products. But one thing's for sure: It will be difficult for Page to repeat Schmidt's performance as a spokesman.

Over the past year or so, Schmidt's well-meaning attempts to explain Google and address public concerns have yielded repeated foot-in-mouth moments.

* In December, 2009, he told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

* In March, he brushed off a question about whether people should trust Google with so much of their data by responding, "Would you prefer someone else? Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?"

* In that same Q&A session reported by Fortune's Jon Fortt, he mentioned that "One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try to predict the stock market," he said. "And then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that."

* At a conference in August, Schmidt told attendees that "If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use Artificial Intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go."

* Later that month, he opined to the Wall Street Journal that "most people don't want Google to answer their questions... They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

* In that same piece, writer Holman W. Jenkins Jr. reported that Schmidt "predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites."

(After that article appeared, tech blogger John Gruber gave Schmidt a new title: "Creep Executive Officer.")

* In October, attendees at a forum organized by the Atlantic Monthly heard him testify to how much Google could learn about its users with their permission: "We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about."

* In an CNN interview later that month, Schmidt joked that users offended by photos of their homes showing up in Google's Street View mapping feature could "just move." He quickly clarified that he "misspoke."

Now, I've heard Schmidt speak at length more than once and didn't find him to be anything like the James Bond villain you could concoct from those quotes. But as Schmidt has noted many times, the Internet never forgets.

I don't know if Page will be a better manager or visionary for the company he helped create. But I'm pretty sure he can't be a worse spokesman for Google.

(Did I miss any memorable Schmidt quotes? Let me know in the comments.)

By Rob Pegoraro  | January 20, 2011; 4:36 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics, Privacy, Search  
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Comments

Great quotes to pull up Rob. The irony of them combined with the "don't be evil" mantra is great.

Posted by: dralison | January 20, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Eric Schmidt is preparing for the Big Mobile Revolution, this could be the reason why he step down.

More about Schimdt at
http://www.Susanto.me

Posted by: 1978 | January 20, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

George Orwell is rolling on the floor and laughing....laughing...laughing....., and, for the rest of us out here, this isn't the least bit funny.

These quotes of Schmidts' taken together here should be considered a major public relations nightmare for Google. Now, add this nasty brew to the likes of FaceBook and these other adolescent "social media" schemes which are mainly advertising carriers, then we have a Googzilla problem on our hands.

Wake up, America!

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | January 20, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Most of these seem pretty innocuous to me.

Posted by: staticvars | January 20, 2011 10:51 PM | Report abuse

"You have zero privacy anyway, get over it."
Scott McNealy

http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/1999/01/17538

Posted by: wiredog | January 21, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I have difficulty understanding where the "foot-in-mouth" aspect of any of these comments comes from, or how - as another poster put it - he causes dissonance with Goog's message of "don't be evil." Eric's a pretty affable guy and a lot of these quotes seem to be made with about half a dose of humor and half a dose of honest prescience about the changing nature of his company and the internet as a whole. Dr. Schmidt did a pretty bang-up job of leading that company. Haters gonna hate.

Posted by: dolm | January 21, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The thing that gets me about Google is their hubris and elitist presumption that we mortals want them to tell us what we want to do next. Do they know that I want to take my dog for a walk after I shovel the snow this morning? Don't get me wrong, Google is a great tool, but they are not gods and they do do stupid things too, like changing their image search results screen to an annoying, bad-loading, bad-scrolling all-photos screen. I'm not in Mensa and I'm not a computer scientist and so I doubt I could even get hired as a janitor there, but sometimes when I'm not wiping drool off my chin and untangling my two shoelaces I wonder why we kneel down and worship so much...

Posted by: Plutonium57 | January 21, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I would rather hear Schmidt unfiltered as he has been, than have it translated to "corporate-speak". Like others, I also find his comments interesting, humorous and harmless.

Posted by: MikeBixby | January 21, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Scott McNealy is right.
What would you rather have, carefully crafted committee-speak that allows us to remain numb (and unaware), or the candid remarks of an engaged leader/observer of the world we live in?
I find Eric Schmidt refreshingly honest in a world of disingenuous posturing. I don't see this org chart change in any way alarming or reflecting badly on Eric.

Posted by: johnfreeman1 | January 21, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

There is no controversy when a person is just speaking the truth, the predictive element of your daily routine has been well established for years:

"If I look at enough of your messaging and your location, and use Artificial Intelligence, we can predict where you are going to go."

That said, his choice to change from "I" to "we" inside that one sentence is a little unsettling.

www.boskolives.wordpress.com

Posted by: jerrywww | January 21, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I really don't see why any of these should be considered "foot in the mouth", true he could have been a little more sensitive about the context and phraseology especially with the "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." which was perhaps a little flippant, but in essence, the rest of these quotes were him just speaking the truth as he sees it. Maybe we should stopped being so shocked and look at the reality behind it, after all just look at all those teenagers busy sexting and posting stuff on facebook that they really might regret enough to want to change their names later in life! It would be so much more refreshing if leaders of other corporations were to also put their "feet in the mouths" and be more open and honest about what is going on. This is what freedom of speech is all about.

Posted by: peteramartin | January 21, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

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